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GI (7 K)   After the war, many veterans of WW II, and others who lived through the era and were directly touched by the conflict, including my father and mother, wanted nothing more than to begin a normal life, maybe get married and raise a family, find good work for a fair wage, and try not to think too much about what they experienced on the battlefield, in the refugee camp, or on the home front. Maybe they told war stories. Maybe they didn't. Most were ordinary people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Few saw themselves as heroes.

   First, just a little time passed, but soon distance intervened. Lives were restarted, normalized, and went on. Memories of the war years dimmed. Perhaps the more horrible recollections buried themselves, never to surface again. As the 1940s ended, the war — for many — had become only a relatively brief interlude in what was becoming a much longer arc of life experiences.

   With the passage of enough time, however, there comes a realization that we should and must turn back to such memories in order to give them the historical and personal perspective they demand. Approaching the end of life changes one's point of view about such things. The participants feel an urge to remember, and we — the rememberers — must realize how essential it is to preserve the memory of what happened to these remarkable loved ones of ours as well as the memory of these men and women themselves. We cannot bear to lose the real story of how that war was won and what the world went through as viewed through the eyes of our fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, and aunts.

   Each day, over 1,500 American World War II veterans die. The passing of this generation that won the fight and built post-war America goes largely unnoticed. But to the family and friends whose lives they touched, these people were special. And as they die, so do their stories of bravery and combat, of fear and separation from families, and of what life was like for them. Aging and illness rob them of the ability to recall and record the events of those years. And, as a son of parents involved in the conflict (my father, an American GI; my mother, a German refugee) I realize this more and more each day, and feel an increasing need to record and preserve those memories any way I can (most obviously through this web site).

   This urge to remember is shared among many of my own generation, the sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and even grandchildren of those that won the war, those that were there. The power of this collective need to remember and yes, memorialize, the "Greatest Generation," is evident from the fact that as a web site administrator I receive dozens of e-mail messages and guestbook postings each month from the relatives of WW II veterans and other survivors of that era. Each message pays humble tribute to their loved ones in simple yet poignant words. Some of the messages are reproduced below, unembellished and unedited. The sentiments, you'll find, ring true and speak for themselves. Often, I find, they have the resonance of poetry.

   The child in me often wonders "where will all the memories go." This is a modest attempt to answer that question for myself, to give them a place where we can come to remember.

—Larry M. Belmont, Webmaster


Pvt. John B. Lopez
from Mary (Lopez) Olguin
July 20, 2002

   It happened a very long time ago, but the loss and the loneliness when you were taken from your family is still with me today. You served for such a very short time, from Camp Gruber to Camp Phillips and left from Boston in early April 1944. Your destination was England — there you would wait for orders to cross over to France and fight. The orders came around June 16th, 17th, or 18th, 1944. You landed on Utah Beach with the 79th Division, Company E, 314th Infantry Regiment. You were very brave and fought hard, but God had other plans for you and took you on July 4, 1944, near St. Lo. You are still missed, Johnnie. We would appreciate anyone that may have been near or with my brother to please contact me at (click here to review the 314th's WW II Tour of Duty). Our thanks, prayers, and gratitude are with all who served during the war.

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Harry Eugene Sears
Name & e-mail address withheld
February 8, 2002

   The first time I felt the significance of what my uncles had done was the day I sang at my Uncle Harry's funeral. I remember the awestruck feeling I had when every member of his VFW troop marched to the casket and soluted him.

   Harry had a dificult time dealing with the war after he got out. It was understandable. He had been a member of 1st Battalion, Company B, 194th Glider Infantry, 17th Airborne Division. While in service, he received three Bronze Stars, a Good Conduct medal, the Combat Infantryman's badge, his glider wings, and a Purple Heart, plus all of the victory commendations that came after the war.

   He was wounded in action on January 7, 1945. He had told my dad that when he was shot, he had just made it up over a ridge. He turned and crawled back up the ridge, praying that a sniper would just take him out because he was in such pain. Harry had been shot through the hips, temporarily taking away the use of his legs. While he recovered in a London hospital, he celebrated his 20th birthday. He went on to also participate in the Central Europe campaign.

   So, it was understandable, the pain he felt for the rest of his life. He was a good soldier that never gave up the fight. He may have masked the pain and memories with alcohol many a time, but he never quit fighting.

   Harry's brother, who served for almost 20 years in the military, understood that better than any of us. He was the first to hear the sheriff's call on the scanner. Without saying a word, he got up and drove to Harry's house. Then he helped carry his brother — a fellow soldier — out. Never leave a man behind.

   So, in honor, not only of Harry, but also of my Uncle Glenn William "Sooner" Sears (aerial gunner, WW II, and 15 more years in the Navy), my Uncle Billy Dayne Sears, who served in the ground infantry during WW II, and my uncle Luther Ralph Sears, who served during the German Occupation, I thank all of the veterans. Freedom is not free. Many of you, like Harry, paid the price for all of us with the rest of your lives. You will never be forgotten.

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PFC Woodrow Wilson Middleton
E-mail from Penny Williams
October 19, 2000

   Private Middleton was my father. He served in and about Washington, D. C. Once I found a picture in the Parade Magazine about Eleanor Roosevelt. In the picture you can catch a glimpse of my dad. He said that his commander just picked out certain ones to have tea with the first lady. He got to go several times.

   My father died in 1973. I just wanted you to know how much that he was loved and is remembered. This is to all of you that served in this searchlight battalion. Thank you for keeping our shores safe. You are so appreciated.

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Charles R. Heiby
from LTC (Ret.) John C. Heiby
October 29, 2000

   I have a distant cousin that was killed in WW II. He was married before he left, but did not survive the Rhineland Campaign. The Rhineland Campaign was highlighted by Operation Varsity, which took place from January 26 through February 10, 1945. On March 24, 1945, the 513th Parachute Infantry Combat Teams and the 194th Glider Infantry Regiment took off from a dozen different airfields in France at 0700 hours and headed for the west bank of the Rhine River. Stretched across the sky, as far as one could see, this was the largest sky armada ever assembled. The entire column was 2 hours and 18 minutes in length: 226 C-47s and 70 C-46s carried parachute troops, while 906 gliders were towed by 610 C-47s. Teams parachuted into Germany in the vicinity of Wesel, about 100 miles south of Münster, and 10 miles into enemy territory across the Rhine River. This drop across the Rhine into Germany was a feat that has been remembered by historians as one of the truly great military maneuvers of all time.

   Corporal Charles R. Heiby (35622221), 513th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 17th Airborne Division, was killed in action on 26 March 1945. He was the son of Clark Edward Heiby and Blanche Smith Heiby.
Entered the Service from: Ohio
Died: March 26, 1945
Buried at: Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Holland, Plot G, Row 18, Grave 10
Awards: Purple Heart
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Solomon Callis Sturdivant
from Kurk Sturdivant
(TSgt, USAF, Ret.)
November 8, 2000

   I was hoping that you would be able to pass this photo of my great uncle around and see if anyone could remember him. He was assigned to the 231st AAA Searchlight Battalion, and was sent to Europe in 1942 or 43. He was killed while driving a truck, supposedly in France. No one seems to remember and I was told his records were destroyed during a fire.

   His name was Solomon Callis Sturdivant. If anyone can remember him, or has any information about him, I would love get in contact with them. I feel he has been forgotten long enough. Thank you so much for what ever help you can give me.

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Flight Officer Kenneth Angus McWilliam, RCAF
from Harry McWilliam
(Thamesford, Ontario, Canada)
February 3, 2000

   My father, Flight Officer Kenneth Angus McWilliam, RCAF, was shot down on December 31, 1944 and baled out near Pepinster, Belgium. According to his log book, he made contact with the 49th AAA brigade, was driven to Brussels, and flown back to England. My dad rarely talked of his experiences, but one of the people that questioned my dad was a General Timberlake. He had actually given my dad his scarf. Our family has it and it has the general's name on it. Could this have been General E. W. Timberlake (of the 49th AAA Brigade)? My father lost three members of his crew on that fateful day. I'm working on a short story on my dad's wartime experiences and would like any information you may offer. I would like to personally thank the 49th AAA Brigade for taking such good care of my dad.

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